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Spatial compositional turnover varies with trophic level and body size in marine assemblages of micro-and macroorganisms


Pettersen, AK and Coleman, MA and Latombe, G and Gonzalez, SV and Williams, NLR and Seymour, JR and Campbell, AH and Thomas, T and Ferrari, R and Stuart-Smith, RD and Edgar, GJ and Steinberg, PD and Marzinelli, EM, Spatial compositional turnover varies with trophic level and body size in marine assemblages of micro-and macroorganisms, Global Ecology and Biogeography, 31, (8) pp. 1556-1570. ISSN 1466-822X (2022) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

2022 The Authors. Global Ecology and Biogeography published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License, ( which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

DOI: doi:10.1111/geb.13530




Spatial compositional turnover varies considerably among co-occurring assemblages of organisms, presumably shaped by common processes related to species traits. We investigated patterns of spatial turnover in a diverse set of marine assemblages using zeta diversity, which extends traditional pairwise measures of turnover to capture the roles of both rare and common species in shaping assemblage turnover. We tested the generality of hypothesized patterns related to ecological traits and provide insights into mechanisms of biodiversity change.


Temperate pelagic and benthic marine assemblages of micro- and macroorganisms along south-eastern Australia (3036S latitude).

Time period


Major taxa studied

Bacteria, phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish, and macrobenthic groups.


Six marine datasets spanning bacteria to fishes were collated for measures of "species" occurrence, with a 1 latitude grain. For each assemblage, ecological traits of body size, habitat and trophic level were analysed for the form and rate of decline in zeta diversity and for the species retention rate.


Species at higher trophic levels showed two to three times the rate of zeta diversity decline compared with lower trophic levels, indicating an increase in turnover from phytoplankton to carnivorous fishes. Body size showed the hypothesized unimodal relationship with rates of turnover for macroorganisms. Patterns of bacterial turnover contrasted with those found for macroorganisms, with the highest levels of turnover in pelagic habitats compared with benthic (kelp-associated) habitats. The shape of retention rate curves showed the importance of both rare and common species in driving turnover; a finding that would not have been observable using pairwise (beta diversity) measures of turnover.

Main conclusions

Our results support theoretical predictions for phytoplankton and macroorganisms, showing an increase in turnover rate with trophic level, but these predictions did not hold for bacteria. Such deviations from theory need to be investigated further to identify underlying processes that govern microbial assemblage dynamics.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:benthic, biodiversity, compositional turnover, fish, latitude, microbial communities, pelagic, species retention, zeta diversity
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Marine systems and management
Objective Field:Marine biodiversity
UTAS Author:Stuart-Smith, RD (Dr Rick Stuart-Smith)
UTAS Author:Edgar, GJ (Professor Graham Edgar)
ID Code:150887
Year Published:2022
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2022-07-04
Last Modified:2022-11-09
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